When I cast my mind back to the first few weeks in 2008 when I was job-free and yet not job-less, as I was working on my PhD, I don't exactly remember what that time was like. Apart from the PhD notes and my first editing jobs, I don't remember what I was doing with my time. It was during those neither-here-nor-there weeks that my supervisor suggested I started enquiring about posts within various universities because nobody waits (or should wait) until the VIVA to get a job, no matter how unrelated to one's own research.
Yet, I wasn't getting anywhere. Not only was I not getting anywhere with the peripheral jobs (I would have quite happily been an undergraduate secretary, I am not too big for such jobs regardless of the PhD, I can assure you), I felt like I was getting nowhere in general. While I never felt the need for a bona fide permanent full-time job, it was the first time in my adult life when I did not have to spring out of bed in the dark at 6.30 am, and even though all of this freedom was, in a way, delicious, I was feeling displaced. My mind was thrilled with the latest developments, yet my body felt like a carcass that was hanging between the alien no man's land of the house and the buzzing outside world where I did not belong any more.
When I discussed this with a friend of mine she pointed out that we are a bit like this in the Anglo-American world; there is this underlying Protestant culture that subconsciously suggests we should all be at the office on Monday at 9 am sharp, not reading the paper at Starbucks with a bucket of a drink that will last all morning. Yet, that's precisely how I navigated 2008-9; writing the bulk of my PhD and working on my editing jobs, yet feeling that I wasn't working at all, even when I was, in fact, getting paid.
Months passed. I had sent countless letters and CVs to numerous institutions, twice over, absolutely certain that my ability to speak several languages, my educational background and my (rather stellar) working background too would have impressed everyone who was reading my lines. Yet, nobody seemed impressed. In fact, to put it exactly as I felt, nobody gave a shit about my research, my writing, my editing, my management experience, my passion for the creative process, my ability to work to spec and to deadline or my fierce getting-it-done skills. My personal mantra, 'If you haven't heard from me within twenty-four hours I am dead', started to sound a bit hollow and doomed. Not that I ever signed off my letters or CVs with it, but I was so ready to go, that the supercilious silence I had encountered quite frankly shocked me.
One evening I watched The Accidental Husband, a comedy that sees love doctor Emma Lloyd dish out relationship advice on her radio programme. The morning after, I surprised myself thinking that it would be great to do something like that Emma from the movie; talk to people about stuff, coach people to write, proof and edit, do something with your life that you've always wanted to do. Soon after, that thought was followed by this one exactly, 'They don't want me to teach? Fuck them, I am going to teach anyway'.
At first I thought of a YouTube programme helping undergraduate students with their essays. I baptised this The Essay Fairy. I taped myself countless times talking about a good essay and how to write one, and I also wrote pages and pages of advice on how to get started, how to get over the lingering waters when inspiration has deserted us, how to finish on a high. But as this was underway, I felt that this project by itself was unsustainable. In fact, I was certain it would have died a premature death because there is only so much essay-writing advice you can give to students of literature.
Hence I began thinking of a partner website, so that the YouTube videos were not going to be a simple speck in an ocean of media but could acquire at least a slight staying power. I started writing about what content I wanted to explore and, consequently, what the reason for being of the site would be. I toyed with it for many weeks, scribbling names all over my notebooks. I knew that I wanted it to be The Creative something, because creative was my keyword, but I was duly stomped on the rest of it.
In reality, I know what was stopping me at a subliminal level: I loved the idea of The Creative Licence, but that's because I had been influenced so strongly by Danny's book that my feelings and my personal preferences were getting mixed up. Yes, I too believe in giving oneself permission to be creative (and that's the underlying message of Danny's masterpiece), but that wasn't my brainchild. My idea had to be mine only. It had to be personal. It had to be individual. It had to be original. It had to be Steph's.
By the time one of the options I had come up with, The Creative Identity, kept turning up in my thoughts at all hours, I knew that I had found it. I worked on the site for six months before I launched it in February of this year. Now that the participants of The Creative Identity eCourse have started logging into the course's site, I am seeing my idea getting to fruition after a lifetime of planning which, in a way, began when I was ten and I used to scribble on a blackboard in my bedroom, teaching French to my teddy bears and Barbies.
To some this may sound like a load of playing and, in a roundabout, unsympathetic way, I can almost understand that. But the truth is this: if this site did not exist, I wouldn't be able to prove what I can do and what I do do. You know that moronic say, those who can't do, teach? That's total bollocks dear reader. It's only those who can who do teach, and those who are told they ain't teaching are those who are going to teach anyway, in the evening, in their spare time, at the weekend, online, via chat, on YouTube, or whatever because if there's a will, it's definitely proven that there is always a way.